Martin Scorsese originally had Robert De Niro as the second half of his dynamic director-actor duo, and their collaboration proved to be a significant success. With the changing of the century however, Leonardo DiCaprio has filled that actor vacancy, teaming together with Scorsese for five films. The fifth of those, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” proves to be their most challenging yet enthralling picture yet.
DiCaprio plays real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, a man who in the early 1990s opened his own stock brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont. By learning the trades of how to defraud investors with fraudulent sales, he and his inner circle of brokers made millions of dollars, which lead to hard-partying lifestyles full of sex and drug use. However, his excessive partying gradually caught up to him when the FBI began tailing his illegal actions.
As clichéd as it is to say this, Leonardo DiCaprio delivers the performance of his career as Jordan Belfort. It is without a doubt the most challenging role he has had as an actor, but his long-standing on-screen charisma translates to a cannon of adrenaline-fueled energy he exhibits playing the real-life figure. Though the real-life Belfort is coined as a villain for the actions he committed, DiCaprio’s performance makes him a complex and fascinating person to watch on screen.
Alongside DiCaprio, Jonah Hill is also quite great as Belfort’s “sidekick,” Donnie Azoff. With the New York accent nailed down well, in addition to his fine combination of acting in both the comedy and drama genres, he manages to blend those two acting styles in a seamless fashion.
Likewise to DiCaprio’s performance, “Wolf” stands out as director Martin Scorsese’s most provocative feature to date in his lengthy filmmaking resume. His camera movement is as fluid as it has ever been, in addition to creating a lightning fast pace for the movie’s 179-minute runtime, which surprisingly only felt like two hours.
Assisting Scorsese’s always sublime direction is Terence Winter’s script, which is full of terrific dialogue between the film’s eccentric characters, especially during a scene where an FBI Agent interrogates Belfort aboard Belfort’s private yacht. Furthermore, while Winter technically writes “repeat scenes,” he manages to find a new approach to each of them in terms of either dialogue or plot device, especially during the infamous quaaludes scene.
Ultimately, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a dark comedy on the excessive lifestyle these loose cannon stockbrokers dove into, and while it is a wildly funny showcase on those acts, it also features a lot of graphic drug use and sex. One could argue that the film’s presentation is glorifying their actions, however I view it as a condoning through its excess. There are consequences for both Belfort and his cohorts in the aftermath, and though some of them aren’t sufficient, punishment of any kind is better than none at all.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” will most likely be known as the most daring film Martin Scorsese makes in his career, yet it is also one of the best. The film is a rollercoaster ride of debauchery, and it features Leonardo DiCaprio at his absolute best. Though the hard-R content may be too much for some, it still deserves to be seen for the experience alone.
RECOMMENDED: Though it’s very challenging in its content, “Wolf” shows Scorsese and DiCaprio at their best as a dynamic actor-director duo.